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Inspection and maintenance tips for truckers

Written by Steve Gursten Posted May 15th, 2013

Helpful pointers for truck drivers on inspecting your truck, reporting problems and complying with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations

truck inspection tips

I recently discussed some helpful pointers that truck companies can keep in mind when evaluating the effectiveness of their preventative safety policies and procedures.  A lot of this came from my recent legal seminar to the Ohio Association for Justice on “Finding the Roots of Truck Accident Cases.” This is based upon depositions and questions that attorneys routinely ask in legal discovery in tractor trailer wreck cases.

It is better to think about these things in order to maintain a safe fleet, and to make sure the truck company is not inadvertently in violation of federal regulations so a wreck – and a truck wreck lawyer – never does become involved.

The buck doesn’t stop there.

The FMCSA also imposes duties on the truck driver  to inspect, maintain and in some instances, even repair a commercial truck. We have touched upon these duties previously as well.

In fact, the FMCSA has taken the position that “the driver is ultimately responsible to make sure that the vehicle being driven is in a safe operating condition.” Tomorrow, I’ll be writing about how that applied in a recent Baltimore inspection blitz.

A truck driver is in a unique position to detect deficiencies in the truck.  Sometimes, a truck driver might even be made aware of problems that can go completely undetected during regular maintenance and inspection. This being so, here are some (emphasis on some) questions and things to keep in mind which you might find helpful in the course of inspecting your truck before getting behind the wheel.

Q. Does your employer have established inspection and reporting procedures specifically for its truck drivers?
A. The answer to this question should be yes. If not, then your employer is risking getting into serious trouble with the FMCSA, and operating unsafely.

Q. Are you as the truck driver aware of your company’s inspection and reporting procedures for drivers?
A. You have to be.  If you are not, then make sure you take immediate action to learn the procedures.  Not only could this save you a lot of trouble with the FMCSA – it could save lives of innocent motorists by preventing a truck wreck.

Q. Have you been trained to competently inspect critical components to ensure your truck is in safe operating condition, and if so, do you need a refresher?

A. This is another thing that you can do which could potentially save lives – including your own.

Q. Are you equipped with the necessary inspection aids and report forms?

A. Remember, you have a duty to report deficiencies with the truck to your employer.  Make sure you have the tools to allow you to perform your duty.  If you are not being properly equipped by your employer, notify them immediately because you are in violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

Q. If you discover a deficiency which could cause the truck to be placed out of service, do you drive it regardless?

A. The answer to this question should be a glaring, unequivocal, “No!”  If you ever suspect there is a deficiency in any critical component of your truck – or even a noncritical component – please stay on the safe side and do not drive.  There are certain deficiencies which automatically disqualify a truck from operating on the highway, for example, bad tires which do not conform to the Safety Regulations.  Never drive your truck when one of these deficiencies exists.  It is extremely dangerous, and you will be punished by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).  Beyond this, and more importantly, you could hurt somebody or hurt yourself.

Tying into that last point – federal law mandates that “you may not drive” your truck unless you are fully satisfied that it is in operating condition.  What this means is that even if you think, but don’t know that there is a fault with your truck, you cannot drive it!  So keep that in mind as well.

Finally, if you suspect something is wrong with your truck while you driving – for example, something that onset after you had already been on the road – stop the vehicle and check it out immediately.

Remember, there are additional regulatory rules governing how you may pull your truck off to the side of the road, and subsequent actions you must take.  So if you have to stop your truck, make sure you also comply with those rules and exercise good safety practices.  Do not start operating the semi truck again until you are completely that it is safe to do so.

Remember, this is not an exclusive list of questions to ask yourself.  Nor is it meant to serve as a guide to making sure that you are in compliance with the FMCSA regulations.  This is a helpful overview meant to get you as a truck driver thinking about, and really examining, your inspection and maintenance duties.

Let’s work together and make our roads safer!

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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